One of the aspects of summer as a child that I vividly recall was my parents’ garden.
Every year, my elderly grandparents, who lived with us, wanted home grown produce and that meant a large vegetable garden. And every year, even after both my grandparents passed away, my mother and father planted one.
Nothing tasted better than freshly picked vegetables and fruit straight from the garden, especially after you endured a hot, sun-filled day plucking them from the plants. I spent many summer days on the back porch shelling peas, snapping beans, and husking corn to help my mother.
Vegetable gardens require a lot of work and attention, but the rewards are worth it.
Not only must you prepare the soil before planting, but then you must ascertain when to plant certain crops, sow either seeds or fledgling plants, water if there isn’t enough rain, hoe to keep the weeds at bay, chase critters out of the budding garden or put up a fence to protect the free smorgasbord that animals are enticed by, and then once the plants begin producing, pick the crops, and prepare them for eating, canning, or freezing.
Every spring, my city-born husband, the Papa of our empty nest out here in the country, strives to plant a small garden. Some years we enjoy bounty; sometimes the crops are scanty depending on weather conditions, pesky insects, and foraging animals. The solution to critters is he puts a fence around the garden every year.
A number of years ago, he planted six blueberry bushes in our yard. Very quickly we learned we must cover them with a net canopy supported by arching PVC piping (which Papa designed and built) to protect the budding blueberries from hungry birds. By doing so, we usually have a bumper crop. But then the attack of the Japanese beetles arrived, and we learned we had to fight them off as well.
For a few years, we also reaped abundant strawberries, but after a time, the plants stopped producing and those had to be dug out and replaced. Papa ordered new ones and planted those three years ago.
The first year the plants were too young to produce, the next year, those hungry (but not angry) birds found them and decimated the crop. This year, Papa covered the plants in the spring with netting supported by a fence.
Earlier this month, we spent a few days away from home traveling to see some sights. And the photo above is what we came back home to find – loads and loads of strawberries. That photo was merely the first picking.
For a number of days, our baskets were heaped to the hilt full of fresh, ripe, ruby red strawberries. Strawberry freezer jam, strawberry shortcake, strawberries on breakfast waffles, we’ve had it all. And I deposited several quarts in the freezer for later as well.
It seemed the strawberry patch and my red-stained fingers would go on forever, but of course, that didn’t happen. Strawberry produce time has come to an end just as the blueberries are starting to develop on our bushes.
More picking. More freezing. More jam making. More searching high and low for recipes requiring those nutritious blueberries that hopefully will be plentiful.
According to some studies, blueberries and strawberries possess something called anthocyanins which can help reverse memory loss that’s associated with aging. That’s a good reason to eat them right there!
Strawberries also are packed with vitamin C, which boosts our immune systems, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. And because of their high polyphenol content, both strawberries and blueberries might help protect against heart disease.
And the great part is that much of the nutrition contained in those berries is retained when you freeze them. That’s why you’ll find containers loaded with blue and red berries in our freezer.
It’s not true that the strawberry patch will last forever, and neither will the blueberries produce for longer than the few weeks in summer, but we will still enjoy their bounty for months to come when we pull out a freezer bag full of their goodness.
“If there were wild strawberries in Eden, and there must have been, Adam was a fool as well as a sinner to taste any other fruit.” ~ Hal Borland